I recently visited Turkana in north-west Kenya, a journey which involves a long drive through arid and seemingly inhospitable desert. Here, in one of the country’s most impoverished, vulnerable and chronically undernourished areas, Mary’s Meals volunteers lovingly prepare nutritious meals for more than 23,000 children every school day. At the nursery I visited, a large pot of maize and beans was bubbling away while 300 children waited for their food
I am used to visiting my daughter’s nursery in Glasgow and there can sometimes be some children crying or sad in those nurseries. Here, however, the subdued atmosphere shocked me. The children were so clearly hungry. In the respite of shade from the sweltering sun, each child received a hot meal – and the crying stopped.
That moment reminded me of how Mary’s Meals, served to 1.6 million children in 18 countries around the world, can change lives. These meals draw pupils into the classroom, meaning they can grow up better nourished and better educated. They will become the men and women who will lift their communities out of poverty and eventually end their reliance on aid.
Many children in Turkana still go without. We know that hungry children have no energy to learn, and desperate parents have to prioritise their children working, begging and scavenging for food over gaining an education. In Turkana, school enrolment is just 50 per cent.
Named after Mary, the mother of Jesus, we have always been humbled by our generous supporters from all over the UK who embody this beautiful mission and just won’t accept that a child should go hungry.
This harsh and drought-prone region has been home to the vibrant Turkana people for centuries, and the community is extremely resilient. But the challenges these people face today mean the promise of a meal at school is more important than ever.
It costs just £15.90 to feed a child with Mary’s Meals for a full school year. To donate to the Together With Turkana appeal, please visit marysmeals.org.uk or phone 0800 698 1212.
Gillian McMahon is UK Director of Supporter Engagement & Income at Mary’s Meals
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